“What is the most exciting and affordable adventure I can do in the next 48 hours?”
-Made a short Iphone clip of How To Do Ijen Volcano Without a Guide-
-I asked myself this one night in Canggu.
I had already done multiple trips into Bali to find waterfalls, raw jungle & scenic rice fields, and was actually itching to get off the island for a bit.
That’s when it hit me. Ijen Crater! -The famous “blue flamed” volcano on the east tip of Java.
I would pack a small backpack, and see the cost and time it would take to get from my room in Canggu (Bali), to the summit of Ijen (East Java), and back.
I am not a big fan of tour groups or guided tours, so I decided to make a solo mission (more freedom).
Woke up the morning at 7 am (actually an earthquake in Java shook my whole building and woke us all up), and grabbed a scooter taxi to the Ubung bus station (Central DPS).
Originally I planned to drive my scooter all the way from Canggu to Banyuwangi (East Java) -the gateway city to Ijen. Thank GOD I decided to take the bus.
Why I recommend taking the bus to Ijen instead of scooter:
- Large trucks and busses dominate this road at top speeds
- Unless you have international drivers license and written permission from rental scooter, you may be prohibited from taking your scooter onto ferry.
- Save your scooter energy for when you actually arrive in Java, instead of tiring yourself on the Bali Highway.
- After minimal sleep and a day spent trekking, the last thing you wanna do is drive your scooter all the way back to Bali (sleep on the bus).
The Trip: (Bali to Banyuwangi)
The Bus from Ubung Station (Bali south) to Gilimanuk (Bali west) took 4 hours.
The Ferry from Gilimanuk to Ketapang port (East Java) took 1 hour.
(The bus goes on the ferry, and there is a ferry every 30min).
The joint ticket for bus & ferry cost me 180k IDR (purchased at Ubung station).
Already somewhere in Java?
You can also reach Ijen through Bondowoso (64km from Ijen). -The closest airport to Bondowoso is in Surabaya.
From Surabaya to Bodowoso is 5-6 hours by car, or 8-10 hours by bus (no trains to Bondowoso)
From Bondowoso you can charter a car to Ijen (64km) for 400,000 – 600,000 RP.
NOTE: If you have time, it may be worth it renting your own car and exploring various other spots along the way!
Once the bus arrived in Ketapong, I stepped off and paid a local scooter 70k (IDR) to drive me to Banyuwangi town (25min south).You can also take the train (300m north from ferry port), or Sri Tanjung bus terminal (2km south from port).
In Banyuwangi I stayed at an epic little homestay called “Osing vacation”. Osing is small and very basic accommodation, owned and run by local named Bennie. Bennie is a super friendly guy and was very helpful when I told him I wish to do Ijen crater without a guide. He helped me to rent a scooter in Banyuwangi and explained directions to get to Ijen. He even gave me one of his breathing respirators to use!
- There was only one place to rent scooters from in Banyuwangi when I was there, so be sure to get that sorted soon after arrival.
- Breathing respirators can be rented at the start of the hike. Use respirators instead of a face mask.
I Woke up at 1 am, made some coffee, hopped on my bike, and started making my way to Ijen volcano. Some of the other travelers staying at Osing got picked up by a 4×4 Jeep, shared with other tourists (This is how most people do Ijen -costs an additional 500k). I remember a couple asking me what I was doing on my scooter at 1 am. They seemed a bit confused when I told them I was also on my way to Ijen.
- Be sure to fill your petrol tank beforehand
- Be sure to have warm clothes and shoes (temperatures drop as you ascend the mountain).
Now let me make this clear once and for all: The road to Ijen volcano is absolutely fine! I drove for about 2 hours in the dark and saw almost no other cars. The route is pretty simple, but it helps to have Google Maps. Be sure to leave Banyuwangi around 1 am so you will make it to the summit before sunrise! If you feel lost, just stop and ask someone for directions, or follow one of the tourist Jeeps if you see one.
Once you arrive at the starting point you will find a parking area and small restaurants where other tourists will be waiting for the hike to “open” (usually around 2-3am). If you arrive a bit early you can have coffee/ food and talk to fellow travelers.
At the start of the trail you must pay a fee of 100k, (I somehow managed to miss this), and then you may start the trek.
THE IJEN TREK
- 4km from base camp to crater rim
- Took me 1hour (others 2-3hours)
- Gradual/ Steep footpath
- No difficult climbing
- No toilets (poo at base camp)
- Wear warm clothes and shoes
- Can rent Gas Mask from Base Camp
- Pack your own water and snack for later
I was quick ahead of everyone, and didn’t see another person until I reached the crater rim. It was still pitch black dark when I reached the summit, where I met a couple who told me some disappointing news- The path down to the mines had been closed (for 2 weeks already) due to dense sulphuric clouds. I tried everything, but basically -NO ONE was getting down there (except for the miners). I shucked my shoulders, turned around, and ventured further up the crater rim to find a nice spot to watch the sunrise.
The walk along the rim is beautiful, exciting, and a bit more dangerous to walk (especially in the dark) due to smoke clouds/ and large cracks. If you are not an experienced hiker, I recommend not venturing here alone.
I did manage to see the blue flames from a distance, but they eventually disappeared as the rays of a new day brought everything to life! Sunrise at Ijen crater really is a unique and almost magical experience! The worlds largest acidic lake lights up inside the crater, and you start comprehending the size of things around you.
Sometime after sunrise (around 8 am), most of the tour groups started heading back down. This is why I prefer doing things without groups/ guides -I had the whole rim of the volcano to myself now! I took my time exploring the far reaches of the crater rim, walking further than all the tour groups and getting a better perspective of the environment. Eventually, I started making my way back.
The walk down is relatively easy, fast, and different -as the daylight makes everything visible and you will see things you did not see whilst coming up in the dark. You may find some miners selling small sulphur figures ( +-20k) as souvenirs (nice gesture to buy). On the way down you will also have a great view of Mount Ruang, adjacent to Ijen.
I got back down to Osing Homestay (Banyuwangi) around 11 am, and instead of starting my journey back to Canggu (Bali), I spontaneously decided to drive 4 hours up north (Java) to spend one night at Baluran National Park. Baluran is known for having a savanna-like environment, and although it was a unique and memorable experience -I do not really recommend going there MAINLY because of the terrible roads inside the park. I seriously drove 2.5 hours non-stop on a potholed stone-strewn dirt road without seeing a single other car/ person. If I had gotten a flat tire or ran out of gas -I would have been in a bit of trouble.
I Watched the sunset in the savanna, spent the night at Baluran, drove back to Banyuwangi (returned the scooter), and took the bus & ferry back to Bali.
WHAT DID IT COST ME?
- Bus + Ferry tickets (there and back)
- Scooter taxi’s
- Accommodation (Banyuwangi & Baluran)
- Park Fees (500k for Baluran Park)
- Scooter rental & Petrol
Total = 70 USD.
-Yep, for 2 full days of awesome adventure
WHAT to bring:
- Warm clothes (layers, it gets hot later)
- A torch (preferably headlamp -to free your hands)
- Shoes (doesn’t have to be professional trekking shoes)
- Gas mask (can rent from base camp)
- Gloves (optional – for cold/ sharp rocks)
- Water & snacks
- Money (unexpected park fees/ buying souvenirs from miners)
Well, there you have it!
All the fundamentals of doing Ijen Volcano Without a Guide!
I really enjoyed this little mission, and I highly recommend it to anyone with a sense of adventure!
If you have any questions/ comments, please feel free to write in the comment section below!